Tuesday, February 28, 2017

In short: The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)

I didn’t actually expect to encounter a rager/infected style zombie movie (or any zombie apocalypse movie at all, really) I’d find worthwhile any time soon, but Colm McCarthy’s adaptation of Mike Carey’s novel, with a screenplay by the author, is a pretty damn great movie.

This is a genre movie which clearly knows its audience does by now have a clear idea of the what, wherefore and why of a zombie apocalypse, so it keeps exposition to a minimum, explaining the differences between its own zombie infection and the usual ones in short bursts and expecting its audience to understand what its talking about. As a story, the film is mostly interested in its characters, the question of the ethics of species survival, and a bit of zombie business that feels more properly science fictional than is typical of a lot of the genre. And, given the skin colour of our protagonist, it does have some thoughts about “race”, too.

That doesn’t mean The Girl is a slouch when it comes to standard zombie scenes: there are a handful of vicious attack sequences, one of the few “sneak through the zombie masses” scenes that isn’t getting Shaun of the Dead wrong by being unintentionally hilarious (I’m looking at you, The Walking Dead), and some wonderfully eerie shots of what’s left of London. While all this certainly isn’t original, McCarthy approaches these sequences as if they weren’t in every other zombie/infected/whatever movie made in the last twenty years, looking at them with his own eyes and making them interesting again.

There’s also the wonderful script that only falters a little quite at the end when a bit too much plot seems to be packed into too little time but otherwise knows about the power of taking its time. Add to that some fine acting by excellent child actress Sennia Nanu, Gemma Arterton, Glenn Close (whose character most films would play as a villain but this one treats like an actual human being without making her less dangerous) and Paddy Considine, and you’ve got yourself a treat in form of a film that opts to treat the generic, its genre and its audience with respect.

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